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Robotics Technology

Scooba the New iRobot Product 252

omly writes "iRobot (makers of Roomba) just released a sneak preview of Scooba, the lastest consumer home-cleaning robot. It will be available this holiday season for all your holiday shopping needs."
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Scooba the New iRobot Product

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 23, 2005 @09:44PM (#12619516)
    if it weren't for those meddling kids!
  • And the one that gets stuck under the futon frame;)

    Now, if it only did Windows;)
  • by manonthemoon ( 537690 ) on Monday May 23, 2005 @09:47PM (#12619529) Homepage
    seems to actual be able to balance design and technology for once. None of their tech has been particularly innovative- they just are able to package it in a usable and not-too-expensive fashion.

    Its about time that some of the sci-fi "future" is actually realized in practical home bound ways.
    • package it in a usable and not-too-expensive fashion

      You mean, remove all the automation electronics and all the propulion electrons, dump the batteries and make it run off mains power. Then install a stick on the end. I'd go for that. An upright vac that mops while I vac the floors, and for a fraction of the price of this automated machine.

    • by account_deleted ( 4530225 ) on Monday May 23, 2005 @10:07PM (#12619657)
      Comment removed based on user account deletion
    • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Monday May 23, 2005 @10:35PM (#12619806)
      not-too-expensive fashion

      Uh- no, they just figured out the inject company model:

      "It uses a specially formulated Clorox® cleaning solution"

      ...which will probably cost significantly more than, say, a bottle of regular floor cleaner- which costs a buck or two and lasts months. What's so "specially formulated"?

      Thanks, I'll pass. The roomba made sense- it replaced noisy, expensive vacuum cleaners (seriously, vacuum cleaners are expensive) and eliminated the work. This little bugger uses special, expensive consumables, and replaces two items which aren't particularly expensive (mop, bucket). Nor does it take very long to mop a floor- 2 minutes, if you include filling the bucket with warm water.

      • Nor does it take very long to mop a floor- 2 minutes, if you include filling the bucket with warm water.

        Wow. You can mop really fast. I used to live in a place with 1250 square feet (138 sqm) of hard floors. It took me much longer than two minutes. I could have used your services.
      • The roomba made sense- it replaced noisy, expensive vacuum cleaners (seriously, vacuum cleaners are expensive) and eliminated the work. This little bugger uses special, expensive consumables, and replaces two items which aren't particularly expensive (mop, bucket). Nor does it take very long to mop a floor- 2 minutes, if you include filling the bucket with warm water.

        It's a bit hard to say without more information, but if you're paying someone to do all of this then it might make sense, if it's rel

      • It's the Gilette principle: Give away the handle and sell the blades at a 200% mark-up. Heck, I got a Mach3 razor (with two blades) for free when I turned 18.

        I've seen the same thing with Swiffers. They do the same job as a broom or mop and bucket about as well, but the handle is significantly cheaper than a mediocre broom, and you get a free five pack of cloths. What they don't tell you is that the "special cloth" is only good for about 300 sq. ft. of floor space, and than a large pack of them costs $8 fo

        • by M-G ( 44998 )
          Swiffers are great for floors, especially if you have pets. I've never seen a paper towel suck up dog hair like a Swiffer does. Nor does it do as good a job dusting surfaces, especially on electronics.
      • by bgog ( 564818 ) * on Monday May 23, 2005 @11:27PM (#12620175) Journal
        Uhhh. Frankly I couldn't care less that it uses special solution that's more expensive. I have ~1400 square feet of hardwood floors and two children under 4 who manage to make it require almost daily mopping. There are a lot of other things I'd like to do than spend the time it takes to vacuum and mop that much space. This sounds like a lovely invention that will be cheaper than the cleaning service I've been considering.

        However If I only had one room I probabbly wouldn't do it.
      • by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday May 23, 2005 @11:37PM (#12620238) Journal
        Read the article and find out. They specifically had issues with regular cleaning solutions because they were too slippery and the robot lost traction.
      • Nor does it take very long to mop a floor- 2 minutes, if you include filling the bucket with warm water.

        But how long does it take, including moving all of your things out of the way because you can't mop around them? Anyone can mop or vacuum an empty room in no time flat ... the real pain is working around stuff, which these products (supposedly) do painlessly.

      • by Yer Mom ( 78107 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @04:22AM (#12621373) Homepage
        "It uses a specially formulated Clorox® cleaning solution"
        ...also known as Scooba Snacks.
    • Dude...

      The guy in charge of the company is Rodney Brooks. Surely, there are innovative projects done at that company.
  • Comment removed based on user account deletion
  • Scooba? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

  • ... getting the wife to vacuum. Or worse, having the wife order you to vacuum.

    Seriously, have you seen the ads for this thing? It clearly would not work well in most settings at all. Until the days of Larry Niven's "housecleaner pets" (read: A gift from Earth), these devices are just barely proof of concept.

  • by Bifurcati ( 699683 ) on Monday May 23, 2005 @09:49PM (#12619550) Homepage
    I wonder where the "Keep your house clean!" sits in the positronic brain surface potential? It would have to be at 1.5, to stop pesky teenagers from ticking off their parents...

    1. A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

    1.5 A robot must keep its house clean, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

    2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law for 1.5th Law.

    3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First, 1.5th or Second Law.

  • by pocketfullofshells ( 722066 ) on Monday May 23, 2005 @09:51PM (#12619564)
    "It will be available this holiday season for all your holiday shopping needs."

    Just what I need to set loose on the upper level in the mall this holiday shopping season.

    Hilarity ensues!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...supposed to go haywire and go on a killing spree? What a disappointment...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    robotic dog poop pickers. I'm surprised that wasn't the first choice for commercial home robots. Have them wandering the park picking poop and rousting bums. Comes in mace & hot mustard flavors.
  • Video (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dimator ( 71399 ) on Monday May 23, 2005 @09:54PM (#12619579) Homepage Journal
    Is that the most uncomfortable and uncharismatic CEO ever?

  • New Roomba Owner (Score:5, Interesting)

    by superid ( 46543 ) on Monday May 23, 2005 @09:55PM (#12619588) Homepage
    We've had our roomba discovery for about 2 months. Bought on a whim, I was skeptical that it would be anything other than a novelty. Not only am I surprised, my *very* skeptical wife approves with two thumbs up.

    We are pretty good about vacuuming and even still, when we let the roomba loose he can still pick up a lot of dirt. And watching him seek back home when it's (his?) batteries run low is pretty cool. I'll definitely be looking into this new gadget!

    Now if it could only run Apache....

    • Same here....Roomba last Christmas and the ol' lady was thrilled. She's dreamed of a cleaning robot since the Fifties and damned glad to get one at last, even if it does need a little help. Scooba this Christmas, fer shure.

    • My Discovery refuses to go back to its' base station. I've watched that thing for hours waiting but it just runs down and shuts off.
    • Count us in there - we bought a Discovery after the holidays (got $50 off with one of those ubiquitous discount coupons that all the home goods chains send in the mail). With both my wife and I working, and a toddler in the house, we just don't have the time for vacuuming the way we should. Roomba for us was an experiment in time savings.

      After almost five months, we love it. It takes care of nearly every room in the house, except for our son's playroom (too many toys on the floor) and the dining room (h
  • by lheal ( 86013 ) <(lheal1999) (at) (> on Monday May 23, 2005 @10:01PM (#12619624) Journal
    (or several different ones) that will:
    • mow the yard (i)
    • in the yard, kill dandelions and other broadleaf weeds without killing other plants
    • inside, find lego pieces and sort them by shape, size, and color
    • walk the dog at 6:30am or whatever unGodly cow-milking hour it is
    • take a constant inventory of my personal belongings as I leave them strewn about, and find my keys, wallet, watch, phone, TV remote, or whatever else I can't locate. Better yet, it should start the car, pay my bills, tell the time, have a phone built in, and change the TV channel by IR link.

    (i) yeah, I know they have these already
  • Because in a small footprint townhome, it's virtually useless unless it can do stairs too.
  • Too much water? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Agelmar ( 205181 ) *
    The nice thing about the "roomba" is that you really can't vacuum too much. Going over the same spot five times (which mine certainly does) doesn't really hurt when you're vacuuming. Going over the same spot five times with soapy water, however, is not necessarily the best idea. You might get excess water deposits if the device crosses its path too often, leading to splotches or worse yet actual water damage.

    I think I will stick to washing my hardwood floors (and drying them) by hand, for the forseeable fu
    • And you have to fill and drain the thing.

      Maybe if it could do that at a toilet with some kind of telescoping boom - then it might be useful. But most people think toilets are full of bacteria so that would be a hard sell.
  • Funny name (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mpupu ( 750408 )
    Scooba sounds like escoba in spanish, which means broom.
    • Hank: So what super-cool adventure are we goin on today? Should I get my SCUBA gear?
      Brock: We're not goin' anywhere. Your father's workin' on this thing.
      Brock: SCUBA.
      Hank: SCUBA. It sounds funny. SCUBA.
      Brock: SCUBA. Yeah it does.
  • by isny ( 681711 ) on Monday May 23, 2005 @10:07PM (#12619653) Homepage
    "Remove your shoes before you enter the kitchen. You have 20 seconds to comply."

    • You have encountered a beligerent floor scrubbing bot. Do you
      A) Obey, and leave your +10 leather boots behind
      B) Leave
      C) Disable the bot
      D) Ignore the bot


      You are in a dungeon kitchen. A cleaning bot appears to be polishing your boots. Exits are N, W , S.


  • Scooba! (Score:2, Insightful)

    From TFA (the F'n ad) - "It uses a specially formulated Clorox® cleaning solution"

    Also great for bleaching out that carpeted area next to your hardwood floors! (Warning please follow instructions carefully if you do not intend to bleach whiten your carpets too).
    • I'm big on floor cleaning because we've got some nice floors where I live including a living room and dining room with marble floors. And being the main caretaker of those floors I know for damn sure you don't use anything like bleach on marble unless you're looking to do permanent and freakin' expensive damage.
      The same goes double for decorative concrete which is often even more expensive than marble tiles because of the labor involved in the installation. The same goes for stained and etched poli
  • Don't forget the Wooomba. It cleans your girls business!

    Just a nod to Saturday night Live
  • Vintage 2005 *rim shot*
  • Rugs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bombadillo ( 706765 ) on Monday May 23, 2005 @10:28PM (#12619753)
    What does this thing due when it hits rugs? Seems pretty useless if you anything on the floor as most rooms do. As soon as the can invent a vacumm in an intelligent pattern then I will be impressed. Most houses just have to much clutter or corners for these things to work.

    I am thinking a few sensors that map out your house layout to a PC. And a bluetooth connection to the vaccum. Then maybe triangulation so the PC knows where the unit is....
    • Not sure what the Scooba does, (obviously, since the thing isn't out yet), but the Roomba doesn't a pretty good job. You have to pick up the papers you might have on the floor, but you can leave things like books (well, books that are thick) and larger objects. Not sure why you would want to do that, if you really want the whole floor vac-ed.

      So, this is just a guess, but given how the Roomba works, I imagine that Scooba works nearly the same way. There's a gizmo under the Roomba that can tell when the
    • I have a Roomba Discovery.

      Works great on my rugs, except for the one with the long fringes, which I have to pick up (not a big deal). It handles transitions from hardwood-rug and back, just great. I have no shag carpet and I figure it wouldn't like that either. It handles "clutter and corners" just great, also. Just be sure to lift up socks and cords lying on floor. Really, no big deal. Seems to cover everything in its pseudo-random pattern, too.
  • by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) * on Monday May 23, 2005 @10:29PM (#12619760)

    This is a Roomba with different floor-cleaning head, but the same random-walk navigation system.

    We have a Roomba. The thing inevitably gets stuck under a chair within 20 minutes. These things only work properly if you have a huge space and almost no furniture. It takes 5 minutes to sweep 1300 sqft of wood floor.

    Why oh why did I waste my money on a Roomba?

    • It takes 5 minutes to sweep 1300 sqft of wood floor.

      I meant that it takes 5 minutes with a big handheld dustmop if you have no furniture, in which case a Roomba is pointless. The Roomba would take all day if it didn't get stuck.
    • I have a Roomba Discovery and it works great, actually. I do have to pick up one carpet with long fringes, and make sure there are no cords dangling on the floor or socks or whatever, but I see this as "roomba makes me help clean up", small price to pay.

      It navigates my chairs just fine, it must just be a peculiarity with yours.

      It does sometimes get stuck under the oven, but it makes a funny attempt to wiggle itself out which sometimes works.

      When I put it in the bedroom and leave it there for a while (aft
  • Lousy navigation (Score:3, Informative)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday May 23, 2005 @10:35PM (#12619811) Homepage
    Until those guys make a unit that detects obstacles before it crashes into them, I can't take them too seriously. And if it runs over a cord, it winds the cord around its working parts, then jams.

    Yes, they sell a reasonable number of them. But then, the Sharper Image makes most of its profits from an air cleaner that doesn't work. []

    • I bought one of those Ionic Breezes out of desperation trying to fix my sinus problems, and it has worked very well for me.

      If it doesn't clear particles out of the air, then what is the gunk I am cleaning off of it every week? It picks up way more stuff than any filter style air cleaner I've ever had.
  • by CuriousKangaroo ( 543170 ) on Monday May 23, 2005 @10:43PM (#12619850)

    I own a first-generation Roomba.


    1. Battery has nasty memory-effect... didn't use the Roomba for a while, and now it will only keep a charge for 10-15 minutes.
    2. Can't return to base station to charge itself. This apparently was fixed in later generations.
    3. Pet and human hair clogs it too easily. I need to remove the wheels and brushes after EVERY use and clean them. The charging station should also have a "clean" cycle, like some electric razors have these days.
    4. Collection bin is too small. It needs to be able to empty its collection bin at the charging station (into, say, a larger recepticle that only needs to be emptied once a week) and set onto a daily program so that you can completely forget about it. Each day it vacuums, charges and empties itself and then you empty the main bin on Sunday afternoons. This would make the whole system totally automatic, and would probably solve the battery memory-effect problem, too, since it will get consistent usage.

    When they get all this fixed, let me know and I'll get another one. Not until then.

    • You should address these concerns to the manufacturer. I'm not saying they'll do everything you want, but the consumer feedback certainly can't hurt.

      It's not like complaining about it on slashdot has a chance of helping any.

    • All but #4 was fixed in the next generation model. Roomba is quite nice for carpets, probably not worthwhile for wood floors since they are swept so easily.

      Current problems are that the Roomba is poor at cleaning carpets at the baseboard and corners, and that it just can't figure out how to escape from under some office chairs. To me these problems are offset by its ability to vacuum under the bed and the fact that I can be doing something else while it works.

    • When they get all this fixed, let me know and I'll get another one.

      All of this is fixed in the latest generation ("Roomba Discovery") line. Go for it.

    • A lot of replies say that #2 has been fixed.

      They have small rooms.

      The new version only knows that the base station exists if it crosses in the path of the IR beam from said station -- same way it knows to avoid the invisible walls (different modulation, I would assume, for the base station). So, it will only 'see' the station and return to it if it is in front of and within about 15 feet of the base station, or manages to cross said area during its 'seek home' routine.

      Which for most people probably works
      • Its possible for the robot to keep a map of its current position relative to the base station. For example, it knows that it turned right 30 degrees, proceeded forward 10 feet, turned left, etc. The IR homing mechanism is most likely to guarantee that the device finds its way home every time. This is needed because the machine has no feedback mechanism to know its true position, so the error in its position relative to the base will become increasingly wrong with each moment the robot is moving.

        Now, if iRo
  • Scooba (Score:3, Funny)

    by sp1nm0nkey ( 869235 ) on Monday May 23, 2005 @10:48PM (#12619883)
    For all of those underwater houses.
  • I find that the middle of my floors stay pretty clean but the edges under the kick board are filty. This machine doesn't have an edger attachment. I don't see this thing doing a very good job where it's needed most. Which is too bad. I seem to be their target market. I have three Roombas.

    And if you're wondering who would win in a fight, Roomba or Aibo Robot Dog. That Roomba takes the dog out at the knees every time.

    • Same here.

      Im betting that if my floor were cleaned every day though, the dirt (dog hair) wouldnt have time to spread to the edges.
  • Roomba was loud and noisy. I wonder if Scooba is quieter.
  • by roystgnr ( 4015 ) <roystgnr&ticam,utexas,edu> on Monday May 23, 2005 @11:40PM (#12620261) Homepage
    I can't see how that round shape is going to be able to clean the corners of my kitchen tile. If a vacuum misses the corners of the carpet, that's not a big problem - they don't get much foot traffic anyway. But in the kitchen? The corners are where every little spill accumulates!

    No, I'm going to stick with my original mopping plan: waiting until one of the stains attains sentience, then negotiating with it to defend me against the others.
    • Around my house the stains aren't a problem it's the clean spots when we spill bleach that we worry about. That is until I got married. My wife would be horrified if she ever saw my first apartment.

      Corner goo is definately this things achiles heel. Well maybe it won't destroy it but it has no defense against it.

  • by DumbSwede ( 521261 ) <> on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @12:14AM (#12620454) Homepage Journal
    Seriously these guys yammer on and on about how high tech and advanced the robot is for what seems like an hour, then set the stupid thing down to make one 3 second pass without even demonstrating it turning or navigating in any way -- it might has well have been a wind up toy.

  • It's only a matter of time before they get iSued by Apple.
  • by po8 ( 187055 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @12:36AM (#12620561)

    The odd thing about the Scooba is that iRobot's first product was also a floor-cleaning machine. I've heard Rod Brooks tell this story in person a couple of times, and it cracked me up.

    PC Magazine, for example, says []:

    ...the company first partnered with JohnsonDiversey (formerly Johnson Wax Professional) in 1998, with the goal of producing a robot floor cleaner. Commercial floor cleaning is roughly a $50 billion business. Angle says that any floor-cleaning system involves three things: sweep, scrub, and polish. No machine on the market did all three at once, but since iRobot developers didn't want to build three separate robots, they set about creating one that could do all three. The end result was the NexGen Multi-Function Floor Care machine. The success of that project led them to Roomba.

    If you read between the lines here, you get the real story: they spent a lot of time building this three-function janitor-bot with a big computer in the middle to drive it around the building. They then started showing it to potential customers, every one of whom said the same thing: "A 3-function cleaning machine? That's fantastic! Take that computer out of the middle of it and put a handle on for the janitor and we'll buy a bajillion of 'em!"

    So they did. The hole where the computer had been made nice storage. Better yet, iRobot had learned a valuable lesson about disruptive technologies: small steps.

  • WOOMba!!

    Keep that special place nice and tidy...
  • I bought a Roomba, I wasn't disappointed. It may get stuck every now and then, but it saves me the time of having to deal with cleaning the house. For ~$200, it does everything my vaccum does, with the exception of not dragging me along. It hasn't clogged, and it's battery life is decent for a four-bedroom house.

    I fully intend to buy Scooba when it comes out. If you're worried about it bleaching your rugs, use the two invisible wall units that come with their products. Need more? They're ~$30 at the
  • ... where's Rosie when you need her?

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll